Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What Would the Muscles from Brussels Eat?

My foodie friend was asking me a seafood question today, and it got me craving some budget friendly seafood for dinner. Everyone has their comfort foods; one of ours is mussels.

Mussels in White Wine Sauce

1 1/2 lbs mussels
1 Tbp butter
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion or shallots
2-3 cloves minced garlic
1 roma tomato, chopped
2 Tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 tsp saffron*
kosher salt and black pepper to taste
chopped fresh parsley


Cleaning mussels is by far the hardest part of preparing them. We bought them cleaned and de-bearded, but you may have to do this depending on where you shop. Now the trick to getting the sand out is to soak the mussels in water with a large handful of flour. Leave them soaking for about 30 minutes before draining. You will also need to check for mussels that remain open. If you press them shut and they don't react (close up), you don't want to eat them.

Next comes the sauce. You'll need a large stockpot with a lid to steam the mussels. Add the butter and olive oil and heat over medium heat. Cook your onion or shallots for 2-3 minutes and then add in garlic. Cook for another 2-3 minutes until your onions are clear. Now, add tomatoes, parsley, thyme, white wine, saffron, salt and pepper. Stir and bring to a boil.

Add in mussels and stir. Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes. I like to shake the pot every once in a while to insure even cooking. If they don't open, get rid of them. Serve mussels with sauce. This is a two person recipe. We serve it with a side salad and crusty bread to sop up the sauce.

*If you don't have saffron, don't worry about it. It is delicious, but not necessary.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Crock Pot Chronicles: Recession Soup

How I love my 10 month old, but sometimes he makes shopping challenging. Today I decided to forgo the grocery shopping and create something with what was in the pantry. If you stock the same staples that I do, you'll always be ready to make this one without spending anything. Behold...

Recession Soup

2 lbs of Russet or Yukon Gold Potatoes
4 cups of chicken broth or stock
2 Tbsp dill
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
2 tsp celery seeds
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground white pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 white onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 strips of cooked bacon, chopped
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup heavy cream


Peel and cut potatoes into equal sized chunks. If you aren't sure what 2 lbs looks like, think of almost half of the bag of potatoes you usually buy (5 lb bag). They will cover the bottom of a large slow cooker.

Add in chicken broth or stock, paprika, celery seed, dill, white pepper, and salt. Turn slow cooker to low heat setting.

In a skillet, heat olive oil on medium heat. Cook onions and garlic until onions are clear.

Add the onions and garlic to the slow cooker and stir.

Microwave or cook bacon strips in the skillet until they are crisp. Chop and add to the slow cooker. Cover and cook for 5-6 hours. (potatoes should be tender)

Stir soup and break up potatoes to form smaller chunks. Add in the nutmeg and cream. Note: if you'd like to use fresh dill, it would be best to wait to add it until this step. Cover the slow cooker again for 20-30 minutes (low heat). This makes 4 servings of yummy, comforting, CHEAP soup.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Recipes

Thanksgiving was a three day event this year. I have compiled a list of the recipes we used during the week, along with a few other random pictures. I hope you had a restful holiday with the ones you love!
My mother brought flowers for the table. I added rosemary from the garden around the edges for color. It made the table look and smell great!

For our second day of Thanksgiving, we decided to hold off on the big meal until dinner time. Lunch was a tray of snacks. Then we proceeded to have a few drinks and serve appetizers around 4:00 in the afternoon; crab bisque and balsamic gorgonzola figs.

Gorgonzola Figs with Balsamic Glaze:


1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

8 dried figs

1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

4 thin slices proscuitto, halved

1 tsp minced fresh rosemary

1/8 tsp pepper

For glaze, bring vinegar to a boil over medium heat. Cook until reduced to about 1/4 cup. Cut a lengthwise slit down the center of each fig and fill with about a tsp of cheese, sprinkling of rosemary and pepper. Wrap each fig with a piece of proscuitto and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until proscuitto is crisp. Serve appetizer warm with glaze drizzled over top.

Crab Bisque


8 oz. crab meat (any type will work fine)

1/2 cup onion, finely diced

1/2 tsp garlic, minced

8 oz chicken stock

2 cups milk

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 stick butter

2 Tbsp flour

2 tsp Creole seasoning

1/8 tsp paprika

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 bay leaf

3 sprigs thyme, chopped

In a stock pot or dutch oven, melt butter on Medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and nutmeg, cooking until onions are clear. Add flour, Creole seasoning, cayenne, black pepper, and paprika. Stir constantly until roux becomes a tan color. This will not take long (use a wooden spoon for stirring). Add stock and blend with the roux. Cook 10 minutes, stirring mixture occasionally. Warm milk and cream in microwave while stock is cooking. Then add crab meat, milk, and heavy cream and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until time is up.

I can't really fold any cute napkin designs, and we are lacking napkin rings. So, I decided to get creative and make "napkin roses" in the coffee cups.

First Thanksgiving place settings. (I just realized I took these before silverware went on the table!)

These trivets are hand made by one of our guests.

The pug salt and pepper shakers make an appearance.

Our set-up for wine before dinner.

My favorite wine charms.

Our guests brought Disaronno and cranberry-pomegranate juice. We mixed about equal parts for a delicious cocktail.

Turkey Brine:


1/2 cup kosher salt

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 gallon vegetable broth or stock

1 Tbsp black peppercorns

1 1/2 tsp Allspice berries

1 tsp ground ginger

1 gallon ice water

Combine all ingredients except ice water in a large pot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally while bringing to a boil. Remove from heat, and let cool completely. When you are ready to start brining, combine with ice water in a large pot or bag and add turkey (breast side in first). Keep cool for 8 hours before cooking.

We used a huge freezer bag to keep the brine contained. It is much less mess the next morning.

Make sure you take the air out of the bag, so the brine will cover the bird.

Roasted Flour Turkey Gravy:

If you want to make some excellent turkey gravy, try cooking your flour in the oven before adding it to your turkey juices. We do this ahead of time and store it in a freezer bag in the pantry.

To make roasted flour, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with about 2 cups of all purpose flour, and bake for 15 minutes or until flour is just beginning to brown. It will add a smoky flavor to gravy. I promise you won't want any other kind after trying it.

Second Thanksgiving was very exciting, because we ordered a 4 lb. turduchen roll with pork dressing this year.

Isn't she a beauty?!

Right out of the oven with andouille sausage.

My brother requested these breadsticks, but I did not make them. They turned out pretty yummy, but I think a thinner breadstick would work better. The basic ingredients are bread, bacon, and parmesan cheese. You know what they say...everything is better with bacon!

Dirty Rice


1 stick butter

2 cups converted rice

1 cup celery, chopped

2 cups yellow or white onion, chopped

1 cup green bell pepper, chopped

2 Tbsp garlic, minced

4 Tbsp parsley, chopped

4 tsp Creole seasoning

1 quart water

Turkey giblets, liver, etc.

Put the turkey parts in water, bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. (skim off the scum that will rise to the top, yes I know it is not the best part of cooking) Let the pot cool and remove any meat on bones. Mince the meat you took off the bones and return to the water. Set this aside for now. Melt butter in a dutch oven, add rice and cook until brown. Add onions, garlic, celery, bell pepper, and parsley; cooking until transparent. Now put the meat and its broth on the burner again and heat. Add in the rice mixture. The water should just cover the rice (about 1 inch, add extra water if needed). Add Creole seasoning, bring to a boil, and cook until water is almost evaporated. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Cover and cook on low for about 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for another 15 minutes. Fluff before serving.

Green Beans with Brown Butter and Pecans


1 lb fesh green beans, ends removed

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Cook green beans in water over medium-high heat until tender. In a small skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Cook butter until browned (tilt pan). Add pecans, and cook another 2-3 minutes to toast. Add butter mixture over drained beans. Toss to coat and serve.

I also did a variation on this recipe using balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and red onions. Cook the beans as usual and drain. Saute' thinly sliced red onions (1/2 cup) on medium-high heat. Add in a few Tbsps of balsamic vinegar to coat and cook another minute or so. Pour about 1 Tbsp of olive oil and 2 Tbsp or balsamic vinegar over the green beans; toss to coat. Fold in onions and serve.

Papa Smitty's Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes


2 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and quartered

3 oz. cream cheese

3 oz. sour cream

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

chopped fresh parsley

In a large pot on high heat, boil potatoes in water. Reduce heat to medium and simmer about 25 minutes until potatoes are tender. Drain and mash. For extra creamy potatoes (as if these need it), use a potato ricer first. Add in cream cheese, sour cream, butter, salt and pepper. Use a hand mixer until well blended. Fold in parsley and serve.

Kristin's Cranberry Relish


1 1/2 cups Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white grape juice

1 tsp ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 12 oz. package fresh cranberries

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan on medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until thick (15 minutes). Stir occasionally. Mixture should be able to coat a spoon. Cool completely and store for at least 8 hours. It is at its best 24 hours after creation.

Ambrosia Salad:

(any fresh fruits can be used for this easy recipe)

1 pineapple, chopped
1 15 oz can mandarin oranges, drained
1 chopped Granny Smith apple
1 chopped red apple
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup sliced maraschino cherries
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup sliced grapes
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 8 oz carton of whipped topping

In a large bowl, combine all fruits and coconut. Drizzle lemon juice over the fruit and toss to coat. Toast pecans for about 2 minutes on medium-high heat and let cool. Once cooled, fold in pecans. Drain any liquid that has accumulated at the bottom of the bowl. Slowly fold in whipped topping. You may not need the entire container to cover the fruit entirely. Serve chilled.

Now that's a meal to be thankful for! Pepto bismol shots for everyone!

Thanksgiving #1 Menu:
Brined turkey

Roasted Flour Turkey Gravy

Mashed Potatoes

Cornbread Dressing

Balsamic Green Beans with Red Onion

Dinner Rolls

Kristin's Cranberry Relish

Ambrosia Salad

Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving #2 Menu:

Gorgonzola Figs with Balsamic Glaze

Crab Bisque

Turduchen with Pork Dressing


Dirty Rice

Papa Smitty's Creamy Mashed Potatoes

Green beans with Pecan Butter

Ambrosia Salad

Kristin's Cranberry Relish

Dinner Rolls

Pecan Pie


Monday, November 16, 2009

Creole Mustard Cornish Hens

Shouldn't everyone get their own birdy to eat? Cornish hens are inexpensive and super tasty. They taste just like chicken I swear. *wink*

If you don't already enjoy these once in a while, pick some up and try them out.
Aren't they tasty looking?!


2-3 Cornish hens
1/8 cup lemon juice
1/8 cup melted butter
2 Tbsps chopped basil
2 Tbsps chopped thyme
2 Tbsps chopped tarragon
2 Tbsps minced garlic
black pepper
Creole seasoning
2 Tbsps Creole mustard
1 tsp honey


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. You will need a roasting pan with a lip to catch the juices.

While it is heating, rinse your hens. If there are goodies inside, remove them. You could freeze them for later or chunk them. Livers and such make good dirty rice.

Now, pat the hens dry so your herbs and butter mixtures will stick.

Rub lemon juice and butter over each chicken and under the breast skin.

Season your birds lightly with salt, pepper, and Creole seasoning. Combine herbs in a small bowl and rub a small amount on to the breast of each hen.

Use the rest of the herbs inside and out on the remaining parts of the hens.

Roast the hens uncovered for 30-40 minutes or until they are golden brown and cooked through. During the roasting time, combine mustard and honey. Use a pastry brush to baste the tops and legs of each bird.

Bake for another 5-10 minutes, until the glaze is golden brown. Ours got a bit crusty because of the amount of herbs but was still delicious. We also took the liquid from the hens along with the same herbs in the recipe and added it to a long grain rice. It was excellent!

There are lots of ways to cook up these birds, so try our recipe or make up your own new creation and tell me about it. Happy cooking!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Crock Pot Chronicles: Slap Ya Mama Pot Roast and Maque Choux

I love Maque Choux with shredded pork, but this week pot roast was on sale. So, beef is what's for dinner tonight!

I've been experimenting with the slow cooker enough now to be able to create my own one pot meals. This one turned out so good that we fought over the leftovers.

2 lbs (1.5-2.5 range) beef chuck roast
1-2 Tbsp cajun seasoning
10 oz. frozen whole kernel corn
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
1 tsp sugar
1-2 tsp hot pepper sauce
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained

1. Trim fat from the roast. Sprinkle Cajun seasoning evenly over all sides of the meat. Make sure to press it in. Place in a slow cooker that is at least 4 quarts.
2. Add corn, bell pepper, onion, sugar, hot sauce, and black pepper. Pour tomatoes over this mixture and cover.
3. Cook on low for 8-10 hours (for high heat, half the time).

We have been buying Abita's seasonal Pecan beer, and I must say it is absolutely wonderful. Maybe the beer fairy will see this and send me some! A girl can dream.

Grab your Abita and serve beef over maque choux (dish up the corn mixture with a slotted spoon to discard excess liquid).